Marine licensing—submarine cables and pipelines
Produced in partnership with Nicola Canty, Barrister of 9 Hazel Tree Chambers
Marine licensing—submarine cables and pipelines

The following Environment guidance note Produced in partnership with Nicola Canty, Barrister of 9 Hazel Tree Chambers provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Marine licensing—submarine cables and pipelines
  • Brexit impact
  • International regime under UNCLOS
  • Cables
  • Trans-European Networks (TEN E Regulation)
  • Electronic communications apparatus
  • Pipelines

Brexit impact

As of exit day (31 January 2020) the UK is no longer an EU Member State. However, in accordance with the Withdrawal Agreement, the UK has entered an implementation period, during which it continues to be subject to EU law. This has an impact on this content.

For further guidance, see: Brexit—impact on environmental law and Brexit Bulletin—key updates, research tips and resources.

International regime under UNCLOS

The laying of cables and pipelines is one of the freedoms of the High Seas under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea 1981 (UNCLOS).

Furthermore, under UNCLOS all States are entitled to lay submarine cables and pipelines on the continental shelf. Regard must be given to existing submarine cables and pipelines to preserve the ability to access and maintain them.

While the UK as a Coastal State may not impede the laying of submarine cables and pipelines, or their maintenance, it may take reasonable measures to prevent, reduce and control any pollution from these pipelines. The actual route, or delineation, of the cable or pipeline must still be approved by the UK in relation to the continental shelf.

Cables

Scenario 1—cable route exclusively within inshore waters

Where a submarine cable only runs through the UK territorial waters, (ie up to 12 nautical miles from Mean High